Monday, July 29, 2019

Life after a riot: A girl from the 'field'

How does it feel when you encounter a person from the place you have done ethnography at at an examination centre while you are tasked with evaluating them? It certainly takes you back to the field memories! The romantic field memories, or that is what conventional ethnography tells you. We subscribe to the fact that we let go field as we leave. No matter how transforming your experience is, it's buried deep inside like the heart of ocean carrying a whole library of stories of the past.

Well, Kaleidoscope couldn't afford the romanticism as he found the then higher secondary appearing girl crossed her age and now a student of a good suburban college. She travels to study and stays back if she has to every once in a while. This particular girl let's just call her Jasmine calls her father baba instead of Abbu and mother Maa, instead of Amma. She has adopted the Hindu Bengali kinship term as she belongs to the place predominated by Hindus for five generations now. Her father, as  Kaleidoscope remembers her village might have thought of letting go such terminologies as they were no longer required. The perfect harmony with people with different faith was the everydayness of people in Bhyabla, to the villagers of Tentulia and Tyantra.

All has changed since 2016 slowly and then with riots at different extent in 2017. A deep rooted social cleavage that Jasmine couldn't accept. Overnight my friends became unknown to me. Kaleidoscope remembers on a rainy October he along with his team from Aamra ek sachetan prayas was listening to one of the bank employees version as he said
"I have seen even my childhood friends came and tried to vandalise our house... Yes there were outsiders but insiders showed which one is a Muslim household and which one is not. The person who supplies our daily needs from his shops was also there... I am about to 40 and I have seen this only now... My father is nearing 80, he has seen this at this age.. think about my son... He is only 6 to see this..."

As the kid was asked to remember the day he was sobbing and then cry out loud. One of the lady members of the team with a background in psychology took him away in a separate room and talked only to know how sad he is and how revengeful his mind has become at this tender age. The lady transformed herself from a Hindu to Muslim appearing girl simply by altering the dupatta perhaps the best way to show how these are constructs. The boy ended up smiling.

Kaleidoscope could remember those faces and the expressions. Kaleidoscope could remember how he read Kumar Ravi Priya's article on Bhuj survivors and how deep the trauma could reach so as to make a person permanently unsettled, skeptical and disturbed! 

Jasmine however answered with a degree of certainty to some of the difficult most questions which Kaleidoscope saw others failed to give a proper answer to! Jasmine, however, looked at the ground when he could identify Kaleidoscope! The person went to know whereabouts of riot affected people in Bhyabla. When they exchanged the 'i know you' glances, Kaleidoscope asked her "how are you these days? what about the neighborhood?" She replied "not well... we are not well... things have changed for bad!"

Kaleidoscope could see the 6 year old kid in some future time saying "even if these are constructs... all are not well!"

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